Tag Archives: teenage romance

What “Big Mouth” Gets Right (And Wrong) About Puberty

When you’re a platform that has created shows like “House of Cards” and “BoJack Horseman,” the bar for quality is higher than most. That’s the benefit/burden of being successful. Say what you will about how Netflix has evolved over the years, it has produced some amazing content in an age that some call the third golden age of TV.

Then, there are shows like “Big Mouth.” I’m not saying that Netflix is lowering the bar for the sake of balance, but I’m still struggling to make sense of this show. When I heard about it, especially with comedian Nick Kroll attached to it, I hoped I had found another show to pass the time in between seasons of “BoJack Horseman.” I’m won’t say I was disappointed, but I do feel like I took the quality of Netflix content for granted.

I’m not going to say that “Big Mouth” is a bad show, but I won’t make excuses for it. It’s the kind of show that goes out of its way to be crude for all the wrong reasons and not in the traditions of “South Park” either. It doesn’t go for the cheap laugh or even the mid-priced laugh. It’s a show that just goes out of its way to sensationalize teenagers going through puberty.

On paper, it sounds like a great concept. Going through puberty is wrought with all sorts of craziness, some funny and some embarrassing as hell. I’ve shared some on this blog, including a story about the most awkward boner I’ve ever gotten.

Big Mouth” tries to extract humor from similarly awkward situations. It takes a lot of swings and it misses a lot of pitches, but it does manage to hit a few balls here and there. Yes, I also mean that in a literal sense. This show does resort to that kind of humor.

It may not be the kind of high-concept insight you get from an episode of “Rick and Morty,” but it does at least try to send a message about the horrors of puberty. Even if the product is crude and exceedingly exaggerated, that message is relevant, so much so that it’s worth talking about.

I honestly didn’t expect to write about “Big Mouth” in any capacity, especially when writing about sexy memories from my college years is so much more interesting. However, after gritting my teeth and watching the show, I feel the horrors of puberty are worth talking about, especially with ideas about toxic masculinity being so prevalent lately.

Big Mouth” doesn’t attempt to wade too deeply into those kinds of issues. It’s too crude and too crass a show to even attempt that kind of commentary. However, it does do a good job at showing just how powerful and, at times, overwhelming that flood of hormones can be to a young person. For some, it’s downright traumatic.

Throughout the show, the main characters, Nick Birch, Andrew, Glouberman, and Jessi Glaser, are often hounded by literal manifestations of a monster that personifies their hormones. It’s never clear whether the monster is invisible or not, but this creature basically says everything the FCC won’t allow teenagers to say out loud.

For the boys, the monster is named Maurice and his advice usually amounts to things like, “Go ahead and jerk off!” or “Look at her tits!” or “Too bad, buddy! You’re getting a boner!” I’m not going to lie. That monster kind of triggered some awkward moments from my teenage years where I found myself thinking thoughts too crude, even for my novels.

The girls aren’t spared from that awkwardness either. There’s another hormone monster every bit as crude, but reserved for female characters. Her name is Connie and she embodies all the alpha bitch, hyper-feminine extremes that Sam Kinison ever joked about. She’s emotional, dramatic, and demands that every female character be confused or overwhelmed by her body. That’s basically puberty in a nutshell.

In a sense, “Big Mouth” is unique in its balanced approach to showing how boys and girls both struggle to endure puberty. That’s rare in most coming of age stories that either focus on horny guys trying to get laid or bitchy girls trying to get popular. This show doesn’t give a pass to either gender.

This is what “Big Mouth” actually gets right about puberty, to some extent. It’s not just overwhelming and frustrating for one gender. The male experience is unique. They have to deal with constant erections and that annoying voice in their head urging them to think dirty thoughts about anything that even looks like a beautiful women.

Since I’m a man who has more than his share of bad memories from my awkward teen years, that’s a sentiment I can appreciate. However, it’s the female perspective in “Big Mouth” that I found most intriguing. The idea that girls are just as freaked out about the changes in their bodies, minds, and everything in between shouldn’t be such a novel concept, but this show goes out of its way to belabor it.

Now, I don’t know for sure that the girls I went to high school with had an actual hormone monster on their shoulder, telling them to cry irrationally at a moment’s notice or lash out at anyone who dared to look at them the wrong way. It’s just somewhat refreshing to think that teen awkwardness knows no gender.

If gender balance is a strength in “Big Mouth,” though, it’s biggest weakness is portraying how the characters deal with it. The show is so over-the-top with the extremes of puberty that it’s hard to glean a meaningful story from it all.

It’s not just that puberty takes the form of actual hormone monsters that sound like uncensored commentary from a bad porno. It’s not that the show makes puberty sound overly traumatic either. There’s never a sense that the characters, even Jessi and Nick, actually grow through the experience. That’s kind of a big oversight with puberty.

From a purely biological standpoint, puberty is the maturation of a child into adulthood. That maturation part is never even hinted at in the show. After watching the first season of “Big Mouth,” it’s hard to imagine any of the characters involved growing into functioning adults.

In the real world, puberty tends to bring out the best or worst in a person. If someone starts becoming an asshole in puberty, they usually stay that way into adulthood. If someone shows an ability to deal with it and grow, as a person, then they’re usually in good shape. It can even get pretty hilarious when both kinds of people have to deal with one another. Unfortunately, we don’t get that with “Big Mouth.”

I won’t go so far as to say the show is terrible. It does have its moments and some of those moments are genuinely funny or insightful. It is, as the end of the day, an overly comedic take on the rigors of puberty. It doesn’t try to be coy or deceptive. It doesn’t try to use colorful metaphors involving flowers or cucumbers. It gets right down the dirty, gritty details.

I can see the show appealing to those who suffered more during puberty than most. I can even see the show appealing to “South Park” and “Family Guy” fans. It’s hardly a guide or a warning with respect to the rigors of puberty, but it reflects a common truth. Being a teenager sucks and puberty is a big reason why.

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Another Sexy College Story (Kind Of In The Way You Think)

By now, I imagine most college freshmen are settling into their new life of exams, late-night studying, and awful cafeteria food. I understand it’s a transition. It takes some getting used to, living on your own for the first time and having to be responsible for your own laundry. It can be jarring at first, but you come to appreciate it quickly.

College is a strange, but amazing experience. It’s like the last rest stop on the road to adulthood and you’re not entirely sure if your bladder is up to task. However, once you go through and do your business, you’re off on your own and ready to be an adult. It’s scare, but you really come to appreciate being able to buy beer without a fake ID.

Compared to the prison sentence/nightmare that was high school, college was breath of fresh air and a mouth full of chocolate fudge. I learned more in those four years than I did the last ten of public school. I actually got to forge my own path, make my own decisions, and carry myself like an adult and not some brooding teenager. It might have been the best therapy I could’ve gotten at that point in my life.

As part of that process, college had its share of sexy experiences for me, but not entirely in the way you think. There were a number of events in college that really made clear to me that I was an adult now and being horny wasn’t something my health teachers would treat like a goddamn chronic illness.

I’ve already shared one of those sexy college experiences on this blog. To date, that still ranks as one of the sexiest. It involved a party, a lot of drinking, and a couple showing off their sex appeal in front of a cheering crowd that I was proud to be part of. You can’t get much more college than that without a John Belushi look-a-like crashing the party.

While that night might have been one of the most memorable experiences I had in college, it definitely wasn’t the only one. Since the last one I shared went over so well with readers, I’d like to share another. This one isn’t quite the spectacle, but it’s still sexy in a more direct sort of way. It doesn’t involve a party or anything. However, it definitely helped inspire the young erotica/romance writer in me.

This particular incident happened in my sophomore year of college. It also happened to be the first year I stayed in a co-ed dorm. It was an upgrade compared to my freshmen year when I stayed in an all-male dorm. Believe it or not, when you put a bunch of young, hormonal men in a confined building who have never been without parental supervision before, it tends to get messy.

Living in a co-ed dorm did help balance things out, somewhat. There weren’t as many fire drills at two in the morning and not as much of the building smelled like sweaty socks. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Contrary to what “Animal House” rip-offs would have you believe, it’s not as sexy as it sounds.

You learn quickly that putting young men and women in a confined building who aren’t used to being on their own can be just as messy, but with a few twists. When the sexes mix, it changes the dynamics and not always for the better.

It’s not just that young, hormonal men do stupid things when in the presence of women they’re trying to sleep with. Sometimes, the presence of both genders just means both have more chances to do all the crazy stuff they hesitated to do when they were still living at home. This story is a nice reflection of that.

Unlike my previous story, this one doesn’t take place at night or during the weekend. This takes place in the middle of the day, on a weekday, and right around mid-terms no less. It’s a stressful time, to say the least. There aren’t as many parties going on and some of the dorms, mine included, mandate certain “quiet hours” so residents can study.

In terms of timing, it may very well be the least sexy time of year. My roommate, who had a girlfriend, seemed to understand that. I remember him being a lot less energetic during that time, even when his girlfriend was around. However, other couples on my floor didn’t get the memo.

One of those couples, fittingly enough, lived right next door to me. Now, I knew my neighbors pretty well. I often went over there and watched TV with them when my roommate needed some “alone time” with his girlfriend, of which I totally respected. On this day, though, it wasn’t my roommate who was the issue.

It starts at around two in the afternoon. I’m in my dorm, my roommate is in class, and I’ve got my last mid-term of the week in about an hour-and-a-half. Naturally, I’m eager to get it over with and take a breath. Then, just as I’m trying to study, I hear something in the dorm next to mine.

It’s moaning. Namely, it’s the very sexual kind of moaning.

At first, I thought my neighbor accidentally left his speakers on while watching porn. It was kind of an unofficial rule. If you’re going to watch porn, you wear headphones. It’s just common courtesy. Then, as I listen closer, I realize this is not coming from a speaker.

I soon recognize one of the moans as belonging to my neighbor, the same guy who was nice enough to let me watch TV with him and his friends every weekend. I don’t recognize the girl, but I do recognize real, sexy moaning. It doesn’t take a porno connoisseur to know the difference.

Needless to say, I’m a little taken aback here, but I’m also very much intrigued. Remember, these are midterms. These might be the most stressful parts of the semester for some people and yet here’s my neighbor, dealing with it by having sex with his girlfriend. I’m not saying it’s a bad way to deal with stress. I’m just saying it’s a bit surprising, given the circumstance.

I quickly find myself listening a little closer. At one point, I think I stood close to the wall, right next to my closet, to make sure my ears aren’t playing tricks on me. I determine my senses were in perfect working order. This was really happening. A couple was having sex just a few feet from me, separated only by a cinder-block wall.

They weren’t very tactful either. I heard a bed rocking. I heard gasping, grunting, and moaning. It didn’t sound like a gentle, romantic kind of sex. This was the rough stuff and they seemed to really like it. I know because the girl was pretty vocal. I heard a few things from her that would probably get her fined by the FCC, but I doubt she minded.

It created this powerful scene in my head. I could vividly picture my neighbor and his girlfriend in the bed, going at it and loving every second of it. It might not have been romantic, given the setting, but they still made it sweet in their own special way. I like to think it helped lay the foundation for my future efforts as an erotica/romance writer.

I don’t remember exactly how long it lasted. I just know that the moaning and grunting stopped. Maybe they still went at it for a bit longer, but it was hard to hear at that point. That didn’t stop me from listening a bit longer, trying to pick up on the details. Eventually, though, it got quiet again and I surmised they had finished.

All this happened and I still had a mid-term in less than two hours. I’m not going to lie, that was quite a distraction, but one I didn’t mind. If anything, I found it to be kind of refreshing, given how stressful everything had been all week. I remember eventually going to my class, taking my mid-term, and not feeling as overwhelmed as usual. I guess my neighbor and his girlfriend deserve some of the credit for that.

I saw my neighbor again a few times after that. I didn’t mention what had happened that day. Neither he nor his girlfriend brought it up either. Every time I looked at them, though, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. During a stressful time in college, in a less-than-romantic moment, these two found a way to get sexy and intimate. For an erotica/romance writer, that’s nothing short of inspirational.

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Why People Sext (According To Dilbert)

Every generation does something unusually kinky that horrifies the older, more uptight generation that has spent considerable energy hiding from their kids that they once wore bell-bottoms and danced to disco music. I don’t deny my generation did some kinky things, many of which still play out in music videos, but I try to keep things in context.

For that very reason, a context for “sexting,” also known as the sending of dick pics and tit shots, still baffles me to some degree. Maybe it’s a sign I’m getting older. I’m in my 30s now. I can’t claim to be young, dumb, and inexperienced anymore. Being on this planet for 30 years gives me too much experience to have excuses.

Regardless of whether or not I’m becoming and old fart, sexting is a thing. According to a 2012 study in “Computers and Human Behavior,” over half of a sample size of young college-age students had engaged in sexting in some forms. Over half of any population means it’s not a fringe behavior. This is happening and it’s becoming common to a degree that’s dangerously close to what bell-bottoms were in the 70s.

So why do people do it? Why is exchanging sexy pictures a thing? Granted, there have been some legal issues involving sexting, but most of those cases involve individuals who are underage. Some involve exploitation and coercion. That’s an actual crime, right up there with forcing someone to wear bunny pajamas to a Rob Zombie concert.

This isn’t like smoking crack. As far as the law is concerned, it is legal to willingly exchange naked pictures of yourself. Just make damn sure the participants have been on this planet long enough to exceed the arbitrary threshold of adulthood that society imposes.

So why do we do it? What’s the appeal? To me, a guy in his 30s with an internet connection and a love of writing erotica/romance, it just doesn’t make sense to me. The internet has an almost infinite number of boobs and dicks on it. It’s really not necessary to persuade someone else to send you pictures of their bodies. A simple Google search is really all you need.

I liken it to being at a fancy restaurant and ordering a steak. However, instead of bringing you a stake, the waiter brings you a picture of a steak. It still looks good. It still looks appetizing. It’s still a fucking picture though. It’s not going to fill the same need.

I personally have never sent someone a picture of my penis. Instead, I just show them how long my ring finger is, which is a more subtle way of letting someone know you have a generous endowment. If I find a lover who is into sexting, I’ll probably feel different. For now though, I’m still confused.

Thankfully, others have thought about this so I don’t have to. Scott Adams, the creator of the famed comic strip, Dilbert, has a knack for making sense of absurdities that have little to no rational explanation. His wry sense of humor has inspired me a great deal in recent years. It has also helped me shape the course of this blog.

The writings of Scott Adams, as well as his hilarious Dilbert cartoons, have helped inspire the phenomenon of “caveman logic” that I’m so fond of citing. Most recently, I read his book, “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big.” It was the most fun I’ve had reading a book that didn’t involve graphic depictions of female anatomy.

As such, when Scott Adams has something to say about sexting, I tend to listen. Last week, he did an article called, “D*ck Pics Explained.” Naturally, it got my interest and not just because it made me think about my own penis. Here’s the main crux of his interpretation:

Our sex drive is so strong that it largely eliminates the option for rational behavior. And as you know, the hornier you get, the stupider you are. Once a guy reaches a critical level of horniness, his rational brain shuts off and he becomes primal. And when he’s primal, he sometimes signals his availability for mating in the most basic way possible: He displays his junk in full preparedness.

If you think the men doing this behavior are extra-dumb, or extra-rude, that might be true. But it is just as likely that such men are extra-horny. That gets you to the same decision no matter your IQ because the rational brain is shut down during maximum arousal.

It is also true – as far as I can tell from discussions with women over the years – that sometimes a dick pic actually results in dating and sex. I realize how hard that is to believe. But sometimes (maybe one time in 500) it actually works. You would think those odds would be enough to discourage even a man with a temporarily suspended intellect, but that view ignores the basic nature of men: We’re risk takers when it comes to reproduction.

Okay, now I can understand it to some extent. I understand why sexting is still a thing. I’m a fairly healthy man and I can say without reservation or shame that I’ve been at that critical level of horniess before. It has led me to do or contemplate things that makes my brain want to kick my ass. It’s never gotten me into too much trouble, but it has led to some awkward situations that I prefer not to describe.

This interpretation is part of what Scott Adams calls the “Moist Robot Hypothesis.” It’s basically the idea that human brains are like robots, but they’re moist and fungible. Granted, they can’t be programmed as easily as a non-moist robot, but it can be hacked to some degree. In fact, the internet is full of brain hacks to exploit, which says a lot about the sub-par programming of our brains.

Flawed or not, the hypothesis is similar to caveman logic. It emphasizes the fact that we humans have two biological imperatives: survival and reproduction. Rational thought and a clear understanding of reality don’t always jive with those imperatives. That’s why critically horny men and women are prone to doing stupid things.

I’m not nearly as smart or as successful as Scott Adams, but I am working on that success. As such, I hope he’ll forgive me if I tack something onto his assessment. I agree in large part with his explanation for sexting. However, I would add another layer to it and it’s an extension of both caveman logic and the Moist Robot Hypothesis.

Due to our biological imperatives, which are at the forefront of our brain’s programming, there’s also a powerful need to adapt. Adaptation is a basic part of evolution for all creatures, be they human or pond scum. Think of it this way:

  • Does wearing tie-dye T-shirts and listening to Bob Dylan increase your chances of having sex? Then chances are, you’ll adapt accordingly.
  • Does wearing bell-bottoms and listening to disco music increase your chances of having sex? Then chances are, you’ll adapt accordingly.
  • Does sending naked pictures of yourself to a lover increase your chances of having sex? Then chances are, you’ll adapt accordingly.

See a pattern here? Notice how I didn’t mention the degree to which your chances of having sex will increase. It can be exceedingly small, but so long as it’s more than zero, that’s enough reason to adapt your behavior and conduct accordingly.

There’s another factor in play that inspires adaptation. That involves distance and technology. Thanks to the growth and prevalence of instant communication, long-distance relationships are a bit more viable.

I know this from personal experience because I met one of my ex-girlfriends online and a lot of our relationship was long-distance. Were it not for Skype and email, we never would’ve found each other and she never would’ve taken me on a memorable trip to Victoria’s Secret.

In this context, sexting can be seen as an adaptation of sorts and one that’s become more necessary to some extent. According to the Journal of Applied Communications Research, between a quarter and half of all relationships among college students are long distance. Naturally, college students are still going to get horny, regardless of distance. Their caveman brains/moist robot brains will require them to adapt.

This capacity for adaptation shows just how creative we humans can be when it comes to fulfilling our biological imperatives. In evolutionary terms, we’re no different from our caveman ancestors. We’re still wired to eat, hump, and survive. We just change our tactics in accord to our circumstances and adapt accordingly.

At the moment, some are adapting to new technology and distant connections by sending naked pictures of themselves. It’s not necessarily a logical adaptation, but since when does logic apply when you’re horny?

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